WASHINGTON, Nov. 1 (Xinhua) -- U.S. researchers have identified an enzyme called Monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL) as a new therapeutic target to treat or prevent Alzheimer's disease, according to a study published online on Thursday in the Online Now section of the Cell Reports journal.
The research team found that inactivation of MAGL, best known for its role in degrading a cannabinoid produced in the brain, reduced the production and accumulation of beta amyloid plaques, a pathological hallmark of Alzheimer's disease. Inhibition of this enzyme also decreased neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration, and improved plasticity of the brain, learning and memory.
"Our results suggest that MAGL contributes to the cause and development of Alzheimer's disease and that blocking MAGL represents a promising therapeutic target," noted Chu Chen, associate professor of neuroscience at Louisiana State University.
Alzheimer's disease is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by accumulation and deposition of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, neuroinflammation, synaptic dysfunction, progressive deterioration of cognitive function and loss of memory in association with widespread nerve cell death.
More than 5.4 million people in the United States and 36 million people worldwide suffer from Alzheimer's disease in its various stages.